I’ve always been skeptical of authority
Growing up inside a Parochial school system caused me to question my beliefs to the point of existential and philosophical angst. I had existed in a closed system of information for so long… how could I be sure that my worldview was right?
I remember watching Bill Maher’s Religulous in the basement of a friends house as a pimply-faced teenager feeling like I just got unplugged from the Matrix. Now Maher just seems like a smug asshole. Watch Real Time when he sits down with a special guest, you’ll see what I mean.
You know how a certain percentage of the population is more open to hypnosis and suggestibility? I’ve never been hypnotized, but I suspect I’d be barking like a dog at the swing of a pocket watch. I’m always considering different viewpoints and changing opinions. Absorbing a couple YouTube videos will have me spilling out memorized facts like “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams!” quacking like a born-again zealot expert. Most of this fades with time; it’s only the really well-founded arguments that tend to stick with me.
Merriam-Webster defines brainwashing as “a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas.” As I graduated high school and entered the state university system, I replaced one set of institutional brainwashing with another. Just like I was skeptical of an absolute and authoritative Catholic Church, I began to grow the same sense of skepticism for public universities.
I began to get the impression that cultural relativism should touted as a badge of honor. Blind acceptance and encouragement was the newfound face of love. My own personal beliefs began to drift toward the liberal arts’ vision of progress.”
As a naive college freshman, I was exposed to a myriad of new political, religious, and social morsels from the hands of my professors and progressive peers and digested them assuming it was simply part of being an educated person. While I couldn’t quite verbalize it at the time, I sensed something was off as early as my freshmen seminar class. Double speak became commonplace. Watching John Oliver was my new Sunday service, and just enough to feed me a narrative that made me sound smart. The Right was seen as racist bigots fueled by corporate greed, nothing more than intellectual idiocy. Political discussion was similar to an echo chamber, where we all rattled off the same talking points and agreed with each other emphatically or ridiculed people who watch Fox News. It began to get boring.
Our country once valued free speech and free press regardless of disagreement. This freedom began to fall short when I started working for the on-campus news organization. Editorial decisions I made were considered offensive to some, and condemned by the administration to the point that my university president sat me down and explained that her office held the purse strings, and I had better play along. Man on the street videos that a majority considered hilarious were overpowered by an offended minority that demanded they be shut down. My dream of experiencing a public education – something I had envisioned as an intercultural exchange of ideas and opinions – was turning into an Orwellian nightmare. Consequentially, I created The Leader as a means to escape censorship. After all, I didn’t go to school to learn Public Relations. I wanted to tell real stories.
I began to get the impression that cultural relativism should be touted as a badge of honor. Blind acceptance and encouragement is the newfound face of love. My own personal beliefs became incompatible with the liberal arts vision of progress. Bernie Sanders had a plan. And I was happy to see someone speaking from the heart, talking about clear goals and policy directives. It all sounded wonderful. Free college? Bern baby Bern! Taxing the Wall Street banksters that created the economic depression of 2008 could suck it; the one percent pulling the strings of this grand charade should fork over their fair share. (Later I learned that income inequality actually isn’t as bad as it seems. Just shy of half million yearly income, you’ll find the median CEO, Wall Street banker, medical specialist, and POTUS. In comparison with most of the world, all Americans are in pretty good shape.)
While many were indulging in the latest black-guy-shot-by-cops video, I was watching and experiencing the stifling effect our political environment had on free speech and free assembly across the country.”
As my own personal beliefs and understanding of the world became incompatible with this new-spun collegiate narrative, I began to see inconsistencies within the leftist ideology that had coalesced into a singular voice. The germinating fear bubbling from the cauldron of television news coverage was enough for me. While many were indulging in the latest black-guy-shot-by-cops video, I was watching and experiencing the stifling effect political forces had on free speech and free assembly across the country.
The more I dug for facts, the more I was convinced that I was witnessing a cancerous cultural shift. The moral compass that was once supplied by the church was now supplanted by blindly supporting the Democratic Party, the only difference being the cultural jihad of the ladder. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. The same skepticism I held in Catholic school, where an overwhelming majority holds the reigns and proclaims righteousness, made me want to push back. The information war continues, and will likely be the greatest conflict of our generation.
TL;DR I learned that I am in fact politically-fluid (your labels can’t define me), not with an allegiance to one authoritarian figure, but an allegiance to the principles I believe will make the world a better place. In reality, the only thing we can change or control is ourselves, self-determination an absolute truth. Then again, maybe my “conservatism” is just a phase. I’ll let you know in a couple months after I settle into my newfound intellectual independence.